Coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is a life-threatening heart ailment caused by atherosclerosis — a condition resulting from the formation of plaque in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. Persons experiencing symptoms of coronary heart disease such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fast or irregular heartbeat or heart attack should immediately see a heart doctor for diagnosis and possible coronary heart disease treatment. The different types of coronary heart disease treatment include a change in lifestyle, medication to control the disease and various types of surgery.
The first line of defense against coronary heart disease is lifestyle change. Cardiologists advise persons with coronary heart disease to exercise regularly, avoid stressful activities, stay away from cigarettes and have a healthy diet. A healthy lifestyle lowers the risk of having chest pain and even a fatal heart attack.
Persons with more advanced symptoms of coronary heart disease are put on medication that might include aspirin or clopidgrel to prevent blood clots, beta-blockers to maintain the proper level of blood pressure or angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to prevent a subsequent heart attack. Statin also is administered to lower the cholesterol level and thus avoid further build-up of plaque in the arteries. Persons with coronary heart disease also are given nitroglycerin for pain or morphine for extreme pain.
The more aggressive types of coronary heart disease treatment are angioplasty or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, atherectomy and coronary artery bypass graft (CABG). These coronary heart disease treatments are resorted to when the block in the artery is so severe that it no longer can be addressed with medicines.
Angioplasty is a non-invasive type of coronary heart disease treatment normally done by an interventional heart doctor in order to open a blocked artery and improve blood flow to the heart. A catheter with a balloon on its tip is inserted into a vein in the groin or leg that leads to the affected artery. The balloon is inflated when it reaches the blocked area to flatten the plaque and widen the artery. A tube called a stent is then inserted to reinforce the expanded area of the artery and prevent another collapse.
When plaque hardens or calcifies and no longer can be compressed by a balloon or when the artery is completely blocked, atherectomy might be performed. Small rotating blades are attached to the balloon or on the rotating tip of the catheter to remove the plaque. A laser can be used as an alternative to remove the plaque.
Cardiologists perform a CABG when many coronary arteries are blocked. CABG is an open-heart surgery in which healthy arteries from the chest or veins from the legs are taken and grafted to the affected arteries to form an alternate route for the blood to flow freely to the heart. One end of the healthy artery or vein is connected to the portion of the artery before the blockage, and the other end is joined to the portion of the artery after the blockage.
All of the types of coronary heart disease treatment described above can only improve the condition of a person with coronary heart disease. They cannot completely and permanently cure coronary heart disease. People with coronary heart disease must therefore maintain a healthy lifestyle and regularly take their medicine in order to avoid further complications.